No. 11 Squadron (RAAF)

About This Unit

No. 11 Squadron was raised at Richmond NSW before heading to Port Moresby New Guinea in March 1939 using requisitioned Short Empire flying boats and Supermarine Seagull amphibians.

Tasked initially to conduct survey operations it also began to monitor Japanese shipping movements in the region. After the outbreak of war with Japan, the squadron re-equipped with Catalina flying boats . Throughout the War, the Catalinas earned a reputation for long-range patrols of up to twenty hours, often involving night bombing attacks on Japanese island bases and shipping lanes.  

As the Japanese maintained their southward thrust, No 11 Squadron aircraft evacuated military personnel and civilians caught in the path of the advancing enemy. By February 1942, Port Moresby itself came under attack and the destruction of several flying boats forced a withdrawal to northern Australia where operations continued.

On the night of 2 March 1943, 11 Squadron Catalinas staging through Milne Bay located and shadowed a large Japanese convoy heading for the New Guinea coast with troops and equipment in what became known as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. The next day, the convoy was almost completely destroyed in one of the decisive actions of the South West Pacific campaign.

April 1943 saw a mixed formation of Nos 11 and 20 Squadron Catalinas carry out the RAAF's first mine laying operation when magnetic mines were successfully laid near Kaiving.

This mission marked the commencement of a highly successful mining campaign that was responsible for the sinking of many ships, the disruption of maritime trade and the closure of ports. In one operation No 11 Squadron participated in a mine laying mission to Manila Bay - the Catalinas flew over 14,500 kilometres - making this operation the RAAF's longest of the war.  These aircraft were painted matt black and earned the sobriquet "The Black Cats" 

After the war, No 11 Squadron was re-equipped with Avro Lincoln bombers and deployed to Western Australia to conduct maritime patrols over the Indian Ocean. Lincoln operations were short lived however, as No 11 Squadron began receiving its first Lockheed Neptunes, a hubrid piston and turbine negined maritime patrol bomber,  the following year.

In February 1957, three No 11 squadron Neptunes participated in "Operation Westbound" - the RAAF's first around the world flight.

No. 11 Squadron moved to South Australia at RAAF Edinburgh  in January 1968, re-equipping with Lockhee P-3B Orions later that year. The "B" model Orions provided sterling service until their replacement with P-3C Orions in 1986.

As at 2017 these these aircraft No 11 Squadron continued to provide Australia with an invaluable long-range anti-shipping and anti-submarine capability, that is shortly to be replaced with a new mix of jet-engined conventional and remotely piloted patrol aircraft.

From 2019 the Orions were progressively replaced by the P8 Posiedon, a heavily modified maritime patrol aircraft based on the well-tried Boeing 737 airframe.


Adapted from ( 



Catalina Reconnaissance - Battle for Rabaul 21 Jan 42 A21.

No. 11 Squadron figured in the lead up to the Battle for Rabaul in January 1942.

Corporal Tom Keen was the waist gunner in a RAAF Catalina, No. A24.9, of No. 11 Squadron RAAF, during the lead up to the Battle of Rabaul in early 1942, commanded by Lieutenant George Hutchinson of the US Navy, who had been seconded to the RAAF early in the Pacific War.

On 15 January 1942, Hutchinson's crew in A24.13 was accompanying another Catalina on a raid on Truk Lagoon from Kavieng in New Ireland. Hutchison's aircraft took off successfully despite a heavy swell running. but the second, A24.11 was destroyed when one of its bombs detonated, killing the entire crew. Hutchinson landed his aircraft but there was nothing to be done. Their takeoff was delayed but they conducted the raid later that day, in company with A24-14, arriving over Truk (a major Japanese shipping base) and bombed the target returning without incident.

Just six days later, flying in in A24-9, they were tasked to convey signals equipment from Port Moresby to Salamaua. They were intercepted by five Japanese Zero fighters. The following account came from Tom Keen, the only survivor of the incident described (1):

They had crossed the Owen Stanleys further east so they didn't require as much altitude. They were at 1,000 feet when we spotted Japanese fighters in the distance, and then climbed for the cloud base at 7,000 feet. The Japanese fighters caught them at about 5,000 feet.

Co-pilot Tom Rowe ran from his seat to the rear to coordinate defensive fire from both side blisters (the large characteristic perspex bubbles on the Catalina's rear fuselage). Four zeros attacked while one loitered above as top cover. The first burst shattered Keen's blister while he loosed off a long burst at the attacking zero which dived away causing Tom Rowe to shout "you got him!". A fire started in the rear and then the other blister was hit wounding gunner Bruce Craigie who clutched his shoulder and fell. The fire consumed the Catalina's fabric control surfaces , while Keen heard Hutchinson calling Moresby to let them know he was jettisoning bombs. Flames were now burning Keen's back, and one of his twin guns had seized. The sights had been shot away. Craigie was slumped over his guns, dead. The Catalina was slowing, approaching stall speed, and with the potential for un-jettisoned bombs to detonate, Keen decided it was time to get out..

He grabbed a parachute and dived out of the shattered blister without having time to put on the harness. He managed to hook one arm through the harness and pulled the ripcord with the other. A Zero dived past him firing as it went. Keen played dead, and observed the Catalina fall and explode into a ridge about a mile away, the shock wave rocking his parachute. After landing in trees, which left him dangling two metres above the ground, he dropped to earth to hide from the marauding Zeros.

When the Zeros left, Keen trudged towards the coast on native paths and soon met up with locals who escorted him to Lau Mission. The Mission despatched a party to the crash site but all they found were three charred bodies in a clearing where the wreckage had disintegrated.

Keen returned to Port Moresby ten days later after his misadventure. George Hutchinson became the first US airman to die in the South Pacific. Seven RAAF aircrew died in the crash.

LT George Hutchinson [USN] (1st Pilot)
P/O Tom Rowe [400293] (2nd Pilot) -
SGT Doug Coote [407763] (Extra Crew - Wireless Operator) -
CPL Jack Wyche [12217] (1st Engineer)
LAC Arthur Meadow [9034] (1st Wireless Operator)
LAC Alan Downes [16809] (2nd Wireless Operator)
LAC John 'Bruce') Craigie [22050] (Armourer)
AC1 Kenneth Murphy [15165] (2nd Engineer)


1. Claringbold M.J. and Ingman, P. (2017) South Pacific Air War Vol 1 The Fall of Rabaul December 1941-March 1942, Avonmore Books ISBN 978-0-9945889-4-4 (1) pp81,82

2. ADF Serials - (

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